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Units for Magnetic Quantities



Ronald B. Goldfarb


The centimeter-gram-second (CGS) system of units was adopted by the pioneers of electromagnetism in the nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century, two limitations of the CGS system became apparent: its inability to gracefully incorporate the electrical units common in engineering and inconvenient factors of 4π in electromagnetic equations. Giovanni Giorgi was most responsible for the development of the rationalized meter-kilogram-second-ampere system, which evolved into the International System of Units (SI). In 2019, the SI was redefined in terms of seven defining constants of nature, which set the value of the elementary charge. A direct consequence is that the value of the magnetic constant, the permeability of vacuum, is no longer fixed in the SI. Some conversions from CGS electromagnetic units to SI units in an updated conversion table thus involve the redefined permeability of vacuum, whereas other conversions require only powers of 10 and factors of 4π. The effect on magnetism and magnetic measurements is more philosophical than practical.
Magnetic Measurement Techniques for Materials Characterization
Publisher Info
Springer Nature Switzerland AG, Cham,


Magnetism, Magnetism history, Magnetic units, Electromagnetic units, International System of Units, Giorgi system, Permeability of vacuum, Magnetic constant, Conversion table, Units of measure, Magnetic quantities, International Bureau of Weights and Measures


Goldfarb, R. (2021), Units for Magnetic Quantities, Magnetic Measurement Techniques for Materials Characterization, Springer Nature Switzerland AG, Cham, , [online], (Accessed May 20, 2024)


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Created September 28, 2021, Updated October 31, 2021